Every Which Way But Loose (1978) – By Matt Singer

In the late 1970s Clint Eastwood went out on a limb.

Despite the protests of his managers and advisers who
said the film would be a disaster his audience would
not understand, he personally decided the best thing
for his career was to make a buddy comedy about a guy
and his pet monkey.

His advisers were totally right. Every Which Way But Loose
looks more like something that would end a
politician’s career than a mainstream Hollywood film.
But Eastwood was right too. Somehow, despite the
film’s lack of a compelling story, a roster of
peculiar characters including a legion of gay Nazi
bikers, and the pervasive stench of career-ending
failure for everyone involved, the American audience
loved — loved!! — this movie. According to
IMDb, LOOSE grossed more than $80 million in 1978
dollars, and it even spawned a popular sequel
(cleverly titled Any Which Way You Can). Even the
decade’s ramptant drug use doesn’t excuse the sort of
success which LOOSE undeservedly enjoyed.

Eastwood’s character is Philo Beddoe, a redneck pit
fighter who lives with his mother (Ruth Gordon) and
his ape buddy Clyde. Now, if I was sitting in a bar,
minding my own business and enjoying a fine domestic
brew, I would be at least mildly surprised to see a
tall dude in a cowboy hat sidle up to me with a large
orangutan hanging from his back. I would at least say
something like “Hey, where’d you get the monkey?” or
maybe “Dude, you do realize you have an ape hanging
off your back right?”

But no one in Every Which Way But Loose is surprised
in the least that Philo has an ape. Even the movie
isn’t impressed by Clyde; one would expect that it
would want to explore how a guy like Clint Eastwood
wound up becoming the guardian to a waddling zoo
animal. But when LOOSE begins, Philo already has
Clyde. Finally, a half hour later, he casually
explains to his new girlfriend where he happened to
come across his hairy buddy (Turns out the zoo didn’t
want him so he took him off their hands). If you
hadn’t seen the opening credits (with a delightful
theme song about how things end up coming every which
way but loose, whatever that means), you would swear
you’d joined this movie already in progress.

The girlfriend is named Lynn (played by Eastwood’s
lady at the time Sondra Locke). She is a country
singer in one of the many bars Philo frequents and he
takes a liking to her just before she up and
disappears. Philo piles Clyde and his human chum
Orville (Geoffrey Lewis) into his RV and heads off
across the country afterwards. Along the way he earns
his living exactly as you’d expect he would: by
participating in underground pit fighting.

Wait, WHAT?!?

Yes it’s another completely peculiar trait that is
treated as completely rational by director James Fargo
(who also made the schlock-rock classic VOYAGE OF THE
ROCK ALIENS). As strange as things get, no one on
screen or behind the camera so much as bats an
eyelash. Instead, they fill EVERY WHICH WAY BUT Loose
with a parade of useless timewasting scenes (the
Philo-follows-Lynn plot isn’t quite complex enough to
carry the film). An hour and fifteen minutes in,
LOOSE has an all-important target practice sequence.
Eight minutes later, the crucial jogging scene. Three
minutes later, it’s kayaking. Is this a Clint
Eastwood movie or a goddamn Eastern Mountain Sports
commercial?

I say Every Which Way But Loose is an inexplicable joy
ride of absurdity and stupidity (“stupurdity” if you
will). 1978 said Every Which Way But Loose was a
hilarious comedy. Who are you going to believe?